The World Cup of Netball kicks off in Liverpool England this Friday the 12th of July.
Australia is scheduled to play Northern Ireland in the first session of the tournament at 11am, prior to the opening ceremony scheduled for 3pm the same day. In session 3, Australia will play Zimbabwe at 9am on July 13th. On Sunday the 14th Australia will play Sri Lanka at 3pm, Monday the 15th then hopefully it’s into the finals after qualifying is dispensed with.
With matches each day determined by the competition results, the World Cup Final will be played after a week of non-stop action on Sunday the 21st of July.
Here are some of the key factors to watch as the competition develops.
Ten things to watch out for at the Netball World Cup
England have broken the antipodean stranglehold with Commonwealth Games gold, and the World Cup starting on Friday is the most anticipated ever
1) The role physicality will play … or not
In the world’s top leagues – in Australia, New Zealand and England – netball has reached a new level of power and physicality. It hasn’t been “non-contact” for years. It’s inevitable the way such strength is adjudicated by neutral umpires, who aren’t used to the brute force displayed in the big leagues, will become a talking point. If players accustomed to a high level of physicality don’t adjust in Liverpool, they’ll give up too many penalties – which may tip the balance in a tight contest.
2) Roses in a pressure cooker
As reigning Commonwealth champions, hosts England have never been under so much pressure. The former England international and UK Superleague coach Tamsin Greenway says the English public expect the Roses to win. “The team is coming into this tournament confidently,” she says. “It’s not that they think they’re better than everybody, but they’re favourites and they should be.” How the squad, captained by 90-Test veteran Serena Guthrie, handles that pressure will define it for years to come.
3) Beware the wounded Kiwi
While many expect a Diamonds v Roses final, the Silver Ferns shouldn’t be discounted. Noeline Taurua has picked one of the most experienced New Zealand sides to contest a World Cup. Her team boasts 781 Tests of experience: a staggering 443 more international games than Australia. With more than 100 caps each, Maria Folau, Casey Kopua, Laura Langman and Katrina Rore will need to step up if the four-times world champions are to redeem their embarrassing Commonwealth Games performance, where they missed a medal for the first time.
4) Blowtorch on Bassett
To say Caitlin Bassett carries pressure into Liverpool is a gargantuan understatement. The 193cm shooter is the most experienced Diamond, captain and the side’s main route to goal. She’s also coming back from an injury – and isn’t in scintillating form. The 31-year-old fractured her forearm in January and has lacked consistency since. Greenway says the Diamonds team heaps expectation on Bassett. “She’ll be feeling that. It’ll be interesting to see how she responds.”
5) Jamaica’s depleted shooting stocks
Jamaica typically has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to tall shooters, but this year they will have to rely heavily on their 198cm captain, Jhaniele Fowler, to hold down goal shooter. The 29-year-old, who has several niggling injuries, will have limited backup from 198cm Romelda Aiken, who is returning from bone stress to her tibia, while Shimona Nelson is out injured. The young goal attack Shanice Beckford is a genuine star, especially from distance, but there will still be plenty riding on Fowler’s broad shoulders.
6) Gretel’s moment to shine?
Netball’s most polarising figure, the Australian shooter Gretel Tippett, might just silence her critics with a breakout performance. Tippett – who came to the game late after playing high-level basketball as a junior – tends to elicit a strong response from fans, who call the 26-year-old everything from reckless to arrogant for her unorthodox style, physicality and “lay-up”. Having improved her accuracy and game sense in recent months, Tippett is set to deliver a “big whatever” to doubters, Greenway reckons.
7) Proteas ready to bloom
South Africa have their best chance in 25 years of winning a medal . The side know it and their coach, Norma Plummer, knows it. Hopes are high because six of the Proteas play in Australia, and others in England and New Zealand. For Plummer, who took the reins before the 2015 World Cup, that means her side can mix it with the finest. While she is “quietly confident”, the captain Bongiwe Msomi is more emphatic: “We are going for a medal.”
8) A fitting farewell for a Mentor
In the dictionary, next to big-game player, there may as well be a picture of the England goalkeeper Geva Mentor, who first represented her country aged 16 in 2001 and was pivotal in the Roses’ Commonwealth glory. In a sparkling career spanning three Commonwealth Games and now five World Cups, the 34-year-old has never won a medal on home soil. And she probably won’t be at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. So if history knocks in Liverpool, expect the 138-cap veteran to answer.
9) The H2 equation
The “moving circle” of shooters Helen Housby and Jo Harten has been crucial to the growth of the Roses, but the duo may come up against tactical resistance this tournament. Greenway – who has applied to replace Tracey Neville as England coach after the tournament – says opposition sides will have been studying “H2” carefully and have plans in place to combat them. If opponents have the answer to H2, the Roses may struggle.
10) Playing through, without time-outs
The Australia coach, Lisa Alexander, is acutely aware she has to “de-programme” her Diamonds when it comes to time-outs – which are allowed in the Super Netball competition but not at the World Cup. That goes for the other 19 internationals who play in the league too. Players have to work out how to “play through” matches without the benefit of numerous tactical breaks, which can significantly shift momentum. On-court leadership will come to the fore. “We’ve got to have that concentrated effort, it’s key,” Alexander says.
Australia’s World Cup position is in no small way influenced by the spectacular quality of its domestic competition and the facilities its team members use week in and week out right across Australia.
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